Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Ruff-top Doggy

Heights! They scare most, but not the Claus, baby! Another Christmas passed, and Santa led his troops above the laws of gravity onto your rooftop. He dove soot deep, chimney-shimmied into your home, and left his presents trailing behind. Predictable, right?
In a different manner, Sammy, a Santa-wanna-be, climbed to the roof too. Let’s start at the story’s beginning:

Once upon a time there lived two step-brothers as roommates.
 The Odd Couple (FYI: These two aren't really a couple):
One messy                                                   One clean
A chef a-la-microwave                                   A gourmet cook
     The puppyless-puppylover                       An owner of a puppy named Sam

Together, this odd couple resided in good cheer.
They enjoyed the southern summer weather…from the inside of their well-temped home. North Carolinian Junes to Augusts repeat a predictable course of smothering hot days proceeded by smoldering hot nights. An occasional storm does barrel through, through, and “Wrrrrrip” through the boys' screen door. The wire threads free, they taunted the home-owners in the wind.
The clean man debated: “To fix or not to fix?”
Messy man reflexed, “To fix it, later on!”
Without demur, clean man decided, “Our $$ is tight, so I agree.”
But, this decision backfired when a fiery parcel scorched their procrastination. The Alpha-Omega of the housing development sent the message direct to Sammy’s owner. His words blazing, "Please note that your mongrel dog is a regular on your roof. Control him. Or else…."
This picture supported his contention.
At that, the two men gawked, “Sammy, you? On the roof? How could? Was it? Really? Whaaa?” In those moments the hole in the screen took on new form: a make-shift corridor for their little escape artist.
The evidence all in, the conclusion inescapable: During office hours, when the humans leave home to work their cubicles hard, this lonesome doggy darts for the roof. There’s no harnessing this pup's outdoorsy spirit, not even a door. 
How would they teach this doggy right?  For starters, screen-door-patchwork it'll be.
Speaking of patchwork...
For this year's Christmas game, our family genetically tested Sammy to identify his background (Why would we do that? To find out, check this site).  Sammy's a piecemeal of breeds.

Do you want to join the fun? Make your guesses: 
Take into account his innocent-yellow eyes, a golden-brown-Viszla-like coat, and skin-folds leaving room to grow. But don't let his puppy-like features fool you. Along with some other "Go_  Samit!" antics, he pursues horses 5 times his size in a purely pestering manner.
He also hangs a frog-like tongue,  
has lap-dog sleeping patterns,
and don't forget his table manners!

I have no faith in you, dearest reader. You'll never guess him. Even Shannon was surprised by the answer! 
Okay, ready for the big reveal? We dubbed him a Chowpoogleweiler. Rightly so. Our "patch-work" breed is a melting pot of beagle-poodle-Rotweiler-chow. All that to create Sam's pretty face??

Up on the Roof Top and Chow Down
For this Holiday feast, I must give credit where HUGE credit is due:
Andy started on the Roast Beast (fried turkey) the night before Christmas. Dipped in a sweet brine, the turkey tasted of licorice anise-picklie flavor.
NUTRITION in Fried Turkey??
Not surprisingly, a deep fried bird contains more fat and calories than an oven roasted turkey.  The nutritional information for a 3.5 ounce portion of deep fried turkey skin and all contains 190 calories and 11 grams of fat.  Equal portions of roasted turkey breast (with the skin) typically contains about 165 calories and 7 grams of fat.  A roasted skinless 3.5 oz breast weighs in at 140 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.  One that's fried in its skin but eaten skinless contains a slightly higher calorie count. This is because the turkey skin fat seeps deeper as the bird cooks.To minimize fat content,  take the tender meat that is furthest from the skin. Reach into the bird! If it's deep fried in canola or vegetable oil at a higher temperature (350 degrees+), it will absorb less fat and oil than ones fried at lower temperatures. 
You worried about trans-fats? Check the frying oil label for 0 grams of trans fat and no (partially) hydrogenated oils or vegetable shortening on the ingredients list. Here's the American Heart Association site with informative answers to trans fat FAQs. 
If fried turkey is not for you, have a lean protein alternative or meat replacement

Let's get this clear, I suggest skinless roasted turkey breast as your best bet. BUT, I'd be less worried about a healthy portion of fried bird (the size of a lady's palm, fingers excluded) than a plethora of decadent desserts. 
Wah-lah: Moist, delicious perfection!
 CREAMY, lush mushroom soup introduced the dinner. This holiday, the mushrooms were grown organic, but not by us. There's always next year. My dad received grow-your-own white button and portibella mushrooms for Christmas!! YUM!
The chilly tartness of the homemade grapefruit-mint granita did some cleansing for our pallets.
 Romanesco-steamed for service-was my favorite! This plant is a relative to cauliflower. Right now, we're scheming to plant these goodies for next Christmas day!!!
The infamous coconut cake (with enviable rise due to farm-fresh...yes home-grown...eggs) was decorated with royal frosting snowflakes for winter. It's so swoon-worthy that you could crush on its pink flakes.
And homemade whip cream for topping or paint for holiday whiskers. Got Milk...whipped?
I'm sure our backyard turkey-men, named Christmas and Thanksgiving, give a special thanks to Bee Haven Maven who made this dream-meal tangible without them being on the plate!
Doggy Yin and Yang, here, wish you a balanced holiday.
Happy SNOW for 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Good Eats for the Kiddies (and Y-O-U)

FNCE, aka “Fency”, aka The American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, aka (in real-people lingo) a place where thousands of foodie-dietitians gather to talk food, learn food, eat food, and sample food! Salute to the grub!

But all hail the school food programs taking healthier action! With Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign on many dietitians’ front burners, it became one of the sizzilin' topic at the conference!!
The School Food Norm:
For breakfast? Why not a HUGE hunk of quiche with refined white flour crust and, to top it off: salt laden sausage, eggy goodness, and molten cheese?  Lunch serves mile-high creamed corn and French fries accounting for the children’s vegetables (though more like fatty, not-so-whole-wheat starches). Don’t forget a serving of seconds...maybe thirds. From the looks and tastes of it-school cafeteria food-past and present-has been a parade of unhealthy, with middle-of-the-road dishes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nibbled, okay, downed my share of cafeteria fair.  It's tough to resist those faced-sized Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, grab-n-go Poptarts, or pizza doused in enough grease to oil a kid's tricycle. Yet, these unhealthy choices morph from food into bleary eyes and a bloated stomach. Preventable symptoms? Of course! But will children be likely to choose a salad over these McDonald-esc consumables? To this, a deliberate, “Auuhhh, heck NO!” might do.

I don't fault your favorite cafeteria lady for heating-up these fattening fixin's.  School cafeterias cook and serve, suffocated by tight-gripped budgets. They run on a year-round, subsidized agrobusiness--y’know the super-sized corn, beef, chicken, potato, soybean farms and their ultra-processed byproducts. The resultant foodstuff pinballs from the producers, suppliers, manufacturers, to the lunch line and student-consumers. During this bounce back and forth food miles rocket above the thousands, gas is guzzled, chow-quality squandered, contamination risk rises, and the food variety is limited.  This large-scale food distribution and processing, is but one factor causing corpulent children. Nonetheless, students are abject to normalize canned vegetable mush, mystery meats, and Twinkies for meals.
Unstable, unprofitable, and sometimes un-nutriticious is our current food system. This is why thousands of people (scientists, non-profits, parents, teachers, school dietitians) put up their advocating fists to brawl for the Child Nutrition Act.  No matter their political party, these fighters duked it out for THE FUTURE GENERATION. And they claimed victory when the Child Nutrition Act passed on December 13, 2010.

The Child Nutrition Act Basics:
1. It trades the extensive paper work with automatic enrollment for low-income children for kids eligible for free lunches.
2. A modest 6 cents increases the reimbursement of school lunches. This money is reallocated for healthier school food menus.
3. Financial support is given for the healthy-local-tasty-fresh input of the Farm to School programs.
4. Acknowledgements are provided for model food systems.
5. About $1.2 billion  will be given over the next 10 years for more meal provision after-school, during summer programs, and to all students in schools with high poverty levels.
6. An estimated $3.2 billion will fund the establishment of new nutrition standards, strengthening local wellness policies, and increasing reimbursement rates.

7. It increases food-prep training for cafeteria staff.
NOW, to Build & Forget
Building is the tough-love, foodservice modification, and school nutrition education provided for the cafeteria workers, policymakers, your local school board, the parents, and the students. Forgetting is the TASTY (healthful) lunch that  surpasses all other unhealthy meals before it's time.

The prospect of modifying a 30-year-old food system may be intimidating, added onto the tough market, limited moneys, and resources too! But I challenge you, parents, teachers, the young (my non-parenting friends), and old (elderly is a relative term) to remember when you were a kid and all you had was a dream!? Now, give these kids a healthy head start on their childhood dreams:
Educate yourself with tons of new resources. Find simple ways to join the movement!

Hurry up, time’s a-waistin’!

While We Wait, Let’s BAKE!
This season we’ve got butternut squash adorning the corners our kitchen pantry.   It's stored cool (55 degrees F) in dry, well-ventilated conditions.  Keep it for up to 8-12 weeks. 
Simply Stuffed Butternut Squash
Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 3 people

1 butternut squash

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon 
1/2 cup dried quinoa
3/4 cup water

1 onion, chopped
2 medium carrot sticks peeled, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 apple, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
 1/4 cup olive orange juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (2 Tablespoons fresh OR candied ginger)
1 tablespoons of cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

Kitchen Needs:
Baking dish
pastry brush (optional)
Large, flat pan (sauté pan) with lid
Large mixing spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
2 boiling pots with lids
2 small pieces of aluminum foil
Yourself and 2 other friends

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds (save for later). Place cut-side-up in a baking dish and drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on top of the halves. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to coat all the flesh. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on top. Roast for 45 minutes or until the squash begins to get tender. Once tender, set aside but leave oven on.

Meanwhile, on top of the stove, use a saute pan to cook onion and sweat carrots in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over low heat. With a large spoon, mix every 1-2 minutes. Do this for 20-25 minutes or until onions are golden-brown (caramelized)Add apples after the first 10 minutes of cooking.  Put a lid on it to save energy. Once finished, set aside in a large bowl.

Place a small pot on high heat burner to bring 1/2 cup quinoa in 3/4 cup water to a boil. Once boiling, bring the heat down to low. Cover with loose-fitting lid and simmer (little bubbles). This allows some moisture to escape.  Cook it until small curly white tails spring from the quinoa and most of the water is absorbed (about 10 minutes). Stir and fluff quinoa with a fork. No liquid should remain.

In the pan that you sauteed the onion in, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, saute for 1 minute until fragrant and golden-brown.  Add 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and fresh or ground ginger, and the tablespoon of cider vinegar.  Simmer until thickened. Turn off burner and mix in 1 tablespoon of honey. If you enjoy cilantro and have it on-hand, try mixing in 1/4 cup fresh and finely chopped for a flavor boost.

In the bowl where the onions are, combine the quinoa, caramelized onions, and orange juice sauce. Toss to coat everything. Spoon 1/2 of the quinoa mixture into the squash halves, cover with two small pieces of aluminum foil, and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes, slice the butternut squash and spoon the rest of the quinoa mixture over each serving.
Nothing goes to waste in our house. Salt, pepper, and spice up your seeds. Throw them in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes (or until toasted light brown). Top salads, soups, sandwiches, or switch in the pumpkin seeds to make squash seed pesto!
There was a butternut half that was left naked and unstuffed. I pealed, mashed, and dressed it with white chocolate and pumpkin spice for these bite-sized treats! Any leftover butternut-mash filled my morning oatmeal and pancakes!
But, nothing molds my family together like buttered-biscuits pressed festive from a cookie-gun.  The best part? All the cooks (I mean kids) that helped!
Taylor and Jakie manned the mixer. They're such baking pros!!
Taylor taste-tested the batter (with no raw eggs). He approved.
Taylor and I are loaded our weapon…only to blast out 200 cookies.
Take Home Message:
1. Bring the kids into the kitchen! Teach them portion sizes, ingredients, cutting and mixing skills, and to have at it with their own creativity!
2.Cook or decorate with the family. Togetherness does not have to involve tasting (other than the here-and-there licking of the spatula)!
3. Let loose! Eat a cookie or two! The small press-cookies' portion create bite-sized snacks for everyone. If the overeating-temptation calls, freeze or gift-up any extra sweets. You could also try waiting out the craving; cravings usually last an average of eight minutes. Until then, occupy yourself with kitchen clean up.

Here are the presents under my Christmas tree...
..and my nephew, Santa's little helper.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


I had the most GAS-tronomical learning experience, and it swallowed so warm and hardy. Fresh from the garden, Sunchoke-Dill-Chowder set sweet in my family's tummies. Such contentment brought smiles to each of our faces as we remarked, “This sunchoke soup has the most exquisite taste! Why don’t you find these exotics hogging up aisle space of the grocery store? What a lost treasure! People don’t know what they’re missing!”
Prep work began at the spice garden over-flow. Dill is burried in there somewhere!! Bev, the featured picker, is Bee Haven Acre's gardener, farm hand, decorator, seamstress, mother of 5 dogs-4 horses-3 turkeys-lots of fainting goats-roosters-hens-ducks-oh my! You name it, she does it. But, I'm proud to claim her as my stepmom! 
Onions, onions, all around. We sweat a couple of these with the other veggies and souped them up. Beforehand, these were harvested and set on the back of the 4 wheeler, not for transport but to begin the curing process. Creativity at its finest!
Meet Manerva, the prettiest garden scarecrow I ever did see. She once had padding to accentuate her hips, but that all settled to her back side. Now she can brag of her bedonkadonk.

Speaking of butts, those sunchoke praises came to bite us in ours. No, really! The veggie's blast-a-cap-off antics stirred, churned, flipped-flopped, twisted, and jerked into our gut. Midsections a-bloadin’ predicated one line-of-fire result: farts out the wazooh.  It left us with artichoke scented stink-puffs, quite gruesome, if you ask me (or anyone else within a 2 mile radius)!
I guess it didn’t help that my nutrition nerdiness kicked in directly after dinnertime. I did my research, but it was already too late.

The pros started out light and fluffy, innocent enough:
Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes accrue wild yet are easily cultivated. Relative to the tubor veggies, they grow elongated, knobby, creamy white, red or purple skinned.  Its white pulp has a comforting and nutty flavor resembling grandma's golden-crusted potatoes (or maybe  the nuttiness and comfort of G-ma, herself) hinted with splash of cabbage, even roasted cauliflower. YUM!

Our chowder recipe compliments the sunchoke's earthiness with the sharp bite of cheddar, an onion-garlic-carrot tang, and the freshness from garden dill. UGGGHH—to die for!

Then IT BEGAN to get juicy—a reference to the hellacious aftermath:
The root contains an abundance of inulin, fructose-based carbohydrates. This science-talk stands for food that humans cannot digest.  So the dirty work is handed to our beneficial bacteria within our intestine. As they munch away, they spew CO2 into our abdomen while they sing: “Oh let the farts go marching down, down, down, and out!!

There's fart-be-gone hope:
Beano's always a safe store-bought bet. But too, long cooking (12 - 24 hours) and low temperatures (200 degrees F) will convert the carbohydrate to digestible fructose. Also, direct word from the farmers who grew them suggests that after 2-3 weeks of storage, the inulin naturally breaks down into fructose sugars well absorbed by your body. Do the math, and this leaves you with fewer detrimental farts evading every nook and cranny surrounding you.  

After cooking, puree them into soup, slice 'em, toss with some sort of dairy before running them under the broiler to make au gratin, or just mix with wintry vegetables.

There's lot of the nutritional value to Sunchokes:
1. Inulin promotes healthy gut flora (those beneficial bugs in our guts that help the food go through smooth).
2. Inulin keeps you regular.
3. Inulin helps manage diabetes: Because this carbohydrate is not easily digested, it stabilizes blood sugar unlike the spike and dips from your average cup of chowder. 
4. Filled with fiber, sunchokes suppress the appetite.

Now to finish my story:
In the night, everyone tucked into bed (even our five doggies—yes FIVE—featured below); there danced sugar plums in...interrupted by filthy, loathing, unwelcomed wind darting out of our wombs. Enough with those farts! We opened a window. Well, we opened ALL bedroom windows.

Oh hush, you people, don't think us lunatics for letting in the arctic chill!  I consider these farts of artichoke proportions!! 
Pup parade (promised above) down to the barn. These guys know when it's time to do farm work. 
Spright ol' Hickory, a 15-year-old puppy. She is a new arrival at Bee Haven. Without a doubt, farm-life added a healthy 5 years to her life.

Mad-dawg (slang for Maddie), my bear! This 140+ pound Newfoundland is a gentle giant who wouldn't hurt a fly...mostly because she's not fast enough to catch one!
Sadie-Bright is our Bernese Mountain Dog. If she took on human form, she would be front-of-the-line short bus material. We LOVE her and her doggie-autistic tendencies! 
Is that dog on the roof?? Yes, more on that later! For now, know this: Sammy-my-boy, who is as the farm for safekeeping, heeds first to my step bro.  
(Single ladies, check this brother out--the human, not the dog--he's the total package, the funny guy, a successful engineer, and a cook with killer grilling abilities.)
A shout out to Ben, Karah, and baby-Ellis for the humble donation of 350-ish Jerusalem artichokes. These farmers grew and plucked the goods from their backyard.  Thanks to my gleaning from your harvest, this blog came to life! Much love and passing-gas.

Finally, the recipe: Sunchoke-Dill-Chowder
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, sliced into water
  • 1 cup of carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fingerling potatoes pealed and halved
  • 5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2-3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1-1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups of cheese of your choice
  • 2 Teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill and a couple extra sprigs for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, melt butter, add onions and cook 1 minute; Stir constantly. Drain the sunchokes and add to pan with carrots and potatoes. Cook for 2 more minutes. Add flour, then gradually add stock. Cover for 20 minutes.

Puree soup in a blender or or food processor until smooth. Add milk, cheese, dry mustard, dill, salt, pepper, and blend again. Pour into a clean pan and reheat gently. Do not bring to a boil. 

Separate into serving bowls. Garnish as you see fit, and chow down!

The End!

This is why I endorse fart producing soups from scratch over the processed stuff:

Friday, December 3, 2010

from IT to Blog

It’s time. Might you ever reach that turning point where you have to do something about IT? My “IT”-small at first, a passing thought, growing moment by breathing moment, until “IT” became a massive, bubbling bother that burst into nothing other than this: one of many, many (drum roll, please)…food blogs!

Okay, okay, let’s dig deep into the true origin of my “IT”.  The sprouts took root in every imaginative food blog before “ITS” time! The delights on Cake Spy; the incredible whit of the Choosy Beggars; the almighty presence of 101 Cookbooks or The Pioneer Women; my favorite knowledge seeking, smart-talkers Kate Geagan and Marion Nestle, and the forget-me-not cohesive endeavors of the Food Network's Healthy Eats and Civil Eats bloggers.  And I MUST pledge my allegance to Bee Haven Maven—the turkey controversy being one of many favorites! Oh, my loves…

Showing up these efforts would be a formidable task, similar to climbing snow-capped mountain peaks with nothing to snug my feet in.  So, instead, I’ll join ‘em and trek in their blogger shoes!

The way I see it, all my time that I would spend on musings my mental propensities or low-and-behold hunting for j-o-b-s, can and should, be channeled into the growings, pickings, makings, picturing, and writing of good-eats and consuming them thereafter.

Put simply: Each season brings bountiful chow-blessings, and now, you should pleasure in these harvested goodies too!

But really, how is this food blog unique?

The starring delectables stem from my backyard(s). “Wait…” you might hesitate. This topic dots every gardener’s, farmer’s, and locavore’s blog, or even the restaurant website Bell Book and Candle.  But here, my challenge is to customize my foods to my local circumstances. This gets a little tricky when my circumstance changes….constantly,  as I’ve been an east coast traveler for the past 2 months. I ride on a sort of backyard bliss, crossing paths with all kinds of rooftop, windowsill, city-bank and widespread country spaces budding with produce and life (even at a Virginia rest station where fruits of spit watermelon seeds took root). Though all varied in time and location, these gardens have one thing in common, I’ve shoveled their provisions from the ground into my gullet.

So saddle up your taste buds, and travel with me. Come play in my ever-changing backyard!

Here's a taste of what's to come!

Peek at my family's organic garden: Bee Haven Acres....

Take a gander at those who encouraged me on my inner-city nutrition education adventures.

Gawk at the treasures of city streets that paved my way!

 Stop staring at her like that! Pretty? Yes. But, she's my friend, an innocent bystander!



My brother and his girlfriend got in the way of CHARLOTTE, NC.

I must confess, I invited them to do so. You do the same!! Be a part of my travels, my food, my BLOG!